Heads You Lose

A Novel

By Lisa Lutz + David Hayward


What's Happening with Lisa + David around Heads You Lose

My Favorite Half-Year

Remember Mark Linn-Baker? He played the straight man to Peter O’Toole’s besotted thespian in My Favorite Year and to the goofball Bronson “Balki” Pinchot on the sitcom Perfect Strangers. In both cases, MLB’s role was pretty much the same: roll his eyes, issue a couple of beleaguered one-liners, and make sure the horse didn’t die. Ever since March, when we started promoting Heads You Lose, that’s been more or less my job, too.

Sometimes (generally after, say, 11:15pm) Lisa is more like O’Toole. At others, particularly when her fake European accent kicks in out of nowhere, she’s Balki. Last weekend’s Bouchercon in St. Louis, a convention for mystery readers and writers, represented the pinnacle of Lisa’s O’Toole side. Suffice it to say that after the previous Bouchercon, she had a reputation to uphold. As emerging videos--including at least one lengthy and controversial juggling demonstration--will attest, she upheld the shit out of it.

Like most conventions, Bouchercon is packed with panels and events. But my favorite parts happened when I was just wandering around or hanging out. I had a couple of brief but thrilling conversations with writers I admire, as well as one long talk with a lonely dairy-cow veterinarian who was a couple of days early for his group’s own convention. I also watched the sucker-punch ending of the Mayweather-Ortiz fight with a shitfaced and incredulous crowd outside a bar down the street from the hotel.

But I digress. Lisa’s Balki side came out the next day, on a rainy side trip to the City Museum, an eclectic funhouse/museum/amusement park in a tall warehouse building. The classic moment came when she suddenly remembered she was afraid of heightsonly upon reaching the apex of a Ferris wheel on the roof of the building. Noticing Lisa’s horror, the teenager at the controls shouted up to us that he could stop the ride. She refused. A few rotations later, she’d conquered her fear. She’s like that.

As Lisa herself later demonstrated on several of the City Museum’s various slides, the dismount is always the hard part. I mention that because after this weekend’s Sonoma County Book Festival, we probably won’t be doing much promotion together for the rest of the year. I don’t know what to say other than it’s been a blast and a privilege. I’m going to miss it.

Read response from Lisa »

My Valet

I’ll be honest: Dave and I ran out of new things to say about each other sometime last summer. We’ve been running on steam and the occasional tall tale ever since. But in the interest of book promotion and because it’s here, we’d sort of like to keep this blog going. And because it’s not on my personal website (www.lisalutz.com for all the latest Lutz news that doesn’t involve a certain coauthor), I am contractually required to write something that relates to the Lutz/Hayward collaboration in some capacity. So, this month, I thought I would address a question that was asked of me on several occasions during our tour.

If you have read HEADS YOU LOSE, you might have noted that Dave comments on my “lifelong obsession with butlers and other menservants.” There is a muddled distinction between the author personas we present in the novel and our real selves. I think it might have been assumed that this comment was a jab at author Lisa, but in fact it is true. Some people dream of having mansions and Rolls Royces, or covet diamonds and Rolex watches. Some people want yachts or to travel the world in first class. Some suckers want to be super-loaded just so they can give all their money away to the poor. Me, I want a valet.

Stop. Before you conjure an image of me lolling about, being served tea and crumpets and refusing to answer doorbells while I bark orders at a well-groomed gentleman in a tux and tails, I must disabuse you of that conceit. My fantasy valet is more along the lines of Sir John Gielgud in Arthur—caring, snide, judgmental, and bossy. However, I would like my valet to stick around a little longer than the 97 min. running time.

My fantasy valet, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Steve Buscemi, would not be required to adorn formal wear or call me Ms. Lutz or Mistress, or anything funny like that. In fact, he’d probably call me Lutz, like all my friends and past P.E. teachers have. What appeals to me about a valet is that there’s a person there all the time, keeping you in check. If I had spinach in my teeth, a coffee stain on my shirt, buttons askew or a black eye from yesterday’s mascara, my valet wouldn’t hesitate to inform me. In fact, my valet would have told me the night before to scrub my face. My valet would instruct me to wake up at a reasonable hour and eat a healthy breakfast. He would take away french fries when I’ve had too many and maybe replace my last cocktail of the night with sparkling water.

Five days a week my valet would order me into my office and tell me to write for at least four hours. I’m pretty sure a lock and one key would be involved. My valet would know if I was on Facebook or Twitter or researching a new disease I might have and he’d put an end to it—not the disease, just the research. On the weekends, he would drag me to at least one cultural event and on Sundays he’d teach me French or Italian or Russian (whatever Steve Buscemi’s second language is).

But, for now, that’s all just a dream. On the record, it’s a real one. I just want to be a better me and I don’t want the responsibility of having to do it all by myself.

Read response from David »


john mccain photoFresh off a vacation, a move, and a week or five of old-fashioned laziness, I’m ready to face up to a troubling reality. The contest that started six months ago in a corner of this site's homepage, in which voters chose which Heads You Lose author they'd rather collaborate with, is over.

To all my supporters, let me make one thing clear: Persistent rumors of voting improprieties do not taint Lisa’s victory. No rules prohibited the use of industry cronyism, thinly veiled threats, or bald promises of cash gifts or sexual favors. Under those conditions, Lisa accumulated 57.3% of the vote—hardly a resounding mandate for a New York Times Bestselling Author, but a solid majority. I’m heartened by the fact that a healthy 42.7% of voters demonstrated that they were free thinkers (“Dave Sympathizers” in Lutzspeak) who value artistic merit above star power.

Anyway, it’s time for a new poll.

Heads You Lose’s, uh, substantial cast of characters has been noted by many readers and reviewers. Which one is your favorite? (Note: This is a simple matter of gauging your enjoyment, not a roundabout attempt to once again measure each author’s relative contributions to the book.) Take the poll (lower-right corner).

Bonus challenge: Without consulting the book,1 answer this question: Who is Franklin Fisher? One randomly selected correct answer will win a hardcover edition signed by one or both authors.

1 If you skipped Lisa’s chapters, you may consult the book.

Read response from Lisa »

Crazy Dave


On January 9, 2009 I created a folder in my Outlook program called “crazy dave.” For a few months by that point, I had been receiving a series of increasingly loopy emails from my then friend/employee and now my friend/coauthor David Hayward. It being quite some time ago, I can’t summon the precise motivation behind archiving these missives, but I do know that I felt certain that one day it would serve me well to have documents of Dave’s bizarre contributions to my inbox.

In retrospect, “crazy” might not have been the appropriate description for these missives. Please keep in mind, however, that Dave and I communicate primarily through email, and it’s as if he believes we’ve established a shorthand which does not in fact exist. Simply view these emails as a mere insight into the constant mixed messages of our relationship.

It had always been my plan on tour to read aloud from the notes with musical accompaniment. Since only three events remain and I don’t yet have a pianist booked, please feel free to turn on your local classical station as you read.

The original archived “crazy dave” exchange started innocently enough:

On January 9, 2009 Lisa Lutz wrote:
did you ever ask your sister if she knew any trust/probate lawyers in the city?

David Hayward wrote:
i don't think so. quit showing off your coding skills

Lisa Lutz wrote:
What on earth are you talking about? I swear at least 20% of your emails contain something I don't get.

David Hayward wrote:
That’s not what you told Montolio!

And that’s where it all began. . . .

Since that time I have amassed a collection of emails that occasionally educate or amuse, but more often confound. I will not attempt to assign any greater “message” to Dave’s missives. However, I have taken the liberty of dividing them under thematic umbrellas. No further commentary will be included. I submit them to you in the spirit of an editor compiling a deceased author’s communiqués. Take from them what you will.

Since most of the emails were sports-related, I’ll begin with one of those.


Saturday, April 25, 2009 David Hayward wrote:
The NFL draft is today. They need help on the offensive line. It's miraculous that they won the Super Bowl with such a weak offensive line -- almost never happens. I hope they get this guy Mack from Cal.

Lisa Lutz wrote:
Did they get Mac from Cal?

David Hayward wrote:
no but they got a cool guy named ziggy!


On  February 9, 2011 David Hayward wrote:
"divine intervention" is when God enters into your life; "Divine intervention" is when a 300-pound crossdresser appears at inopportune moments.


On July 26, 2010 David Hayward wrote:
just a heads up: my memoir of this experience will be entitled vagina pants

On August 24, 2010 David Hayward wrote:
Just a heads up: "bingo or what" is my new catchphrase.

Straight-out bonkers:

On May 13th, 2010 David Hayward wrote:

caveman forget attach paper?

On October 3, 2010 David Hayward wrote:
part of the power of my look is the unique blend of country & city mice

Read response from David »

Home at Last

Lisa Lutz in airport wearing hood and sunglassesNothing to report except I'm home from the book tour without a scratch, despite flare-ups of several of Lisa's most troubling afflictions, including AAD, ACP, CWOC, and RJS.* 

Yes, I do want a medal for this. Thank you.

* Airport Antisocial Disorder (pictured), Acute Coauthor Paranoia, Compulsive Weather Observation Complex, and Repetitive Joke Syndrome.

Read response from Lisa »

Proof of Life

Halfway through the Heads You Lose tour, as of Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. Mountain Time, David Hayward is alive and well.

Read response from David »

Last-Minute April Fools’ Day Tips

 I know, I know. A long, heartfelt appreciation of Lisa Lutz, followed by a link to a classic “April Fool!” reveal, was the obvious way to go here.

Well, it’s not happening. A gag that sweet requires months of planning, and I have to admit the holiday snuck up on me this year.

But I know I’m not alone in that. If you also waited too long to orchestrate an elaborate April Fools’ Day prank, don’t worry. Below are several uproarious yet practical capers to pull on your friends and loved ones today, courtesy of AprilFoolZone.com. I have also included two of my own ideas. Or have I?

Sour Joke. Put a few drops of green food coloring in the milk to make it look as if it has soured. When someone pours it in the morning, they will think it has gone bad.

May I Have Mayo. Replace the lotion in your victim’s lotion bottle with mayonnaise. Advanced version: Replace the mayonnaise in your victim’s mayonnaise jar with lotion.

Soggy Socks. Carefully place small water balloons in the toe of your victim’s shoes. They’ll get a wet surprise! (Be sure to only do this on inexpensive shoes.)

What’s Not to Leak? While your friend is sleeping, use a push pin to create tiny holes in his or her pancreas. Reveal the gag on the drive to the hospital.

Author, Author. Convince a well-known writer to collaborate on a book with you. At the book’s launch party, loudly announce that you wrote the whole thing. Also, when called upon to provide witty banter in promotional videos for the book, act dimwitted and sleepy instead.

If you are faced with legal action as a result of any of these antics, remember to invoke the April Fools’ Defense (Florida v. Ostertag, 1974). And please submit your own favorite gags in the comments below.

Coming April 24th: last-minute Easter tips!

Read response from Lisa »

A Tale of Two Copyeditors

This might surprise you, but my grasp of English grammar and punctuation is foggy at best. Think of it like this: I can see, but I need glasses for 20/20 vision. While all authors go through the copyedit process as their books are being finalized for publication, I fear that mine might have a bit more work in store than, say, the copyeditor for Jonathan Franzen (I bet he’s got this shit down).

To spare all people involved in early reads of my book, I have in the past few years employed David Hayward (my virtually unknown coauthor) as a preliminary proofreader.

However, this was a few years after I had already established a solid working relationship with Jonathan Evans, my publisher’s production editor (overseer of all things related to copy, consistency, and standards). I believe he’s worked on all Spellman books to date. While both men have great minds and 20/20 copyediting vision, the comparison ends there. Whenever I’m apologetic to Jonathan about my sloppy style and misuse of commas, he bats the comment aside and reminds me that it’s job security.

Dave, on the other hand, mocks and belittles me. Even when I get something right. For example, right now Dave is proofing a rough draft of Trail of the Spellmans. Please see his notes in the text below.

Sometimes a window is ajar (he is on the fourth floor, so I’m not exactly sure what he’s worried about—flies?); [CORRECT SEMICOLON USAGE!!!] sometimes the bathtub might be overflowing.

One is a family matter; [BRAVISSIMA!the other is harassment.

“I dated a mick once; [AND AGAIN! HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!] I know what they sound like.”

Honestly, I didn’t study up on semicolons at all. So this was just blind luck. But then it occurred to me that the semicolon is a kind of awesome bit of punctuation. I asked the brilliant and kind Jonathan for thoughts and I got this lovely response:

The semicolon is the most human of punctuation marks, precisely because it’s inherently ambiguous and complicated: it can join two independent clauses that don’t relate, or two independent clauses that closely relate. Its very use is a signifier of the complexity of human thought, of our knack for making connections, right or wrong, between ideas and impressions. It’s messy but it’s democratic. (Probably why Cormac McCarthy hates it.) Sure, it interrupts the rhythm sometimes, but human consciousness doesn’t always unfold with flawless cadence; it’s a reminder that we’re not always as clever as we think we are.

The semicolon also occupies a place of tremendous peril because it’s not as terminal as the period, which is the universal sign of THE END, nor is it the slight breath of a comma, a piece of punctuation that provides only the merest of interruptions, and almost seems to be saying, “carry on.” In this respect, the semicolon occupies an area somewhere between the living and the dead; its suggestion of finality, like a brush with death, will get you to pay attention to what follows a little more closely than if a mere comma were standing in your way.

Read response from David »

A Thoughtful Review

I’ll keep this one short since I prattled on last time about myself and my namesakes.

Heads You Lose has already received some nice critical attention from mainstream publications, but it’s somehow even more gratifying to hear that non-professional book lovers are enjoying it. (Apparently there are a few advance copies floating around out there.)

The book recently got an exuberant review from a blogger who seems like a particularly fascinating guy. Personally I think he’s a little hard on Lisa, but he does make some convincing points. Check it out at Jerry Blake’s Stuff & Such.

Read response from Lisa »

My Tour Demands

Four weeks from today is the official pub date for HEADS YOU LOSE, at which point David Hayward (my virtually unknown co-author) and I will embark on what is shaping up to be quite a grueling tour. In the first eleven days we will have only one evening “off” from each other. This will be the longest stretch of concentrated Lutz/Hayward time in the history of our relationship (in its various forms). If I were forced to come up with a single word to describe my feeling at this point, it’s dread. Dread, plain and simple.

So how does one prepare for an experience so fraught with peril? How can we be sure that by day eleven, when we will no doubt be sleep-deprived, unkempt, and have aged considerably, we’ll be able face one another without the bitterness that plagues longtime bandmates and comedy teams? I don’t want to one day say in an interview to the BBC (like Keith Richards on Mick Jagger) that you “started at first to annoy me, then slowly enrage me.”

So, here are some measures I think we should take to at least give us a fighting chance to be on speaking terms by the time this tour comes to a close.

  • In airports, let’s pretend we don’t know each other. Obviously, if I’m getting mugged or injure myself, break character. Otherwise, you’re some tall blond guy in a wrinkled shirt (and it will be wrinkled) who happens to be on the same airplane.
  • I’ve noticed in the few signing sessions we’ve had that you’re getting fancy with your signature. Knock it off. It doesn’t change the fact that my name is bigger on the cover.
  • Even though we’re pretending that we don’t know each other, sometimes bringing a stranger coffee makes you feel better. It’s like one of those pay-it-forward things, which I’m generally not all that big on, but there are some exceptions.
  • If I ask you to bring me an apple, don’t then ask me if you can eat it later. Just get another apple.
  • No more blue pens. And bring your own. I’m not your pen valet.
  • Don’t deplane slowly just to prove you’re more zen than I am. Guess what? I give that to you, yoga boy. You are more zen. You win that one, I give it to you.
  • Finally, if tensions still arise, I suggest we resort to Twitter for all communication. I believe we’re less likely to reveal our dark sides in front of the voting public.

These are my demands, Dave. I look forward to hearing your response.

Read response from David »

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